The SBIFF has become such a strong and central acronym in this city’s cultural circles, many have dispensed with using the entity’s full name: Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Ripple effects from the expanding SBIFF universe include the grand reopening of its lavishly renovated new theater home, the scenic-view-endowed Riviera Theatre; events, screenings, and projects in the “off-season” (SBIFF runs from late January into early February); and mini-festivals in the form of The Wave, now in its seventh annual incarnation.
This year’s Wave again heeds a French-cinema-based agenda, bringing 11 new films to the Riviera July 6-12. It’s a ripe opportunity to check in on the state of contemporary French cinema, which the larger SBIFF addresses in smaller quantities and often with the crowd-pleasing niche of comedic “French froth.”
This year’s slate features four female directors, including Tonie Marshall, who appeared in Jacques Demy films in her youth. And the films are: Carbon (Olivier Marchal), Custody (Xavier Legrand), Elementary (Hélène Angel), The House by the Sea (Robert Guédiguian), Let the Corpses Tan (Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani), Let the Girls Play (Julien Hallard), Number One (Tonie Marshall), A Paris Education (Jean-Paul Civeyrac), Roommates Wanted (François Desagnat), The Sower (Marine Francen), and Thousand Cuts (Éric Valette).
I recently spoke with SBIFF senior programmer Mickey Duzdevich regarding The Wave.
How has The Wave evolved since its inception? I feel that with each Wave, my taste has grown to bring films that really aren’t going to be seen anywhere else. Yes, you will have the occasional few that make it into U.S. cinemas or online, but for the most part you will only be able to catch them at a small local festival like this. I’m getting into the groove of wanting to challenge our filmgoers a little more.
How did The Wave actually start? We have always done events in the summer, and we wanted to come up with an event that more aligned with our mission. Thus, The Wave was born. It was a concept that The Wave could be moved throughout different parts of the year, and we could always change countries, genre, and topics. Because of the success of [original] The French Wave, we decided that French cinema would always stay. Eventually, we hope to offer three Waves a year: one in the spring that changes, the French in summer, and another in the fall.
Are there many other Francophile film fests around the country or the world? Yes, the idea of a French film festival isn’t something new. You can find them all over. What makes ours different is that we are a bigger festival putting on a smaller festival in the off-season. One of the most notable French festivals is COLCOA, which takes place in April in Hollywood. There is also one at the Lincoln Center each year in New York and one in Boston every July.
Can you point to a few of the films you were most impressed with in this selection? I was very impressed with Let the Corpses Tan, as it is very stylistic. It pays so much homage to films of the past. It is truly a work of art visually and is something that true cinephiles will love. Also, The Sower is breathtaking with its stunning visuals of the French countryside. It’s amazing to see since the cinematographer shot the whole film in a squarish 4:3 Academy ratio, something you don’t see much of nowadays.
Has the refurbished and reenergized Riviera as a home base created a richer atmosphere for a mini-festival? Yes, I believe it has. We now have this beautiful home where not-your-everyday cinema can thrive. Our attendees become one giant cinema-going family. It is a place to not just watch but also discuss everything cinematic, and with smaller festivals like this, you are able to feel a part of something big.
4·1·1 The Wave runs July 6-12 at the Riviera Theatre (2044 Alameda Padre Serra). See sbiff.org/wave.